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Drive-In Live is worth the price of admission

  • Goose played at the Cheshire Fairgrounds in Swanzey on Saturday night. Staff photo by Ben Conant—

  • Goose played at the Cheshire Fairgrounds in Swanzey on Saturday night. Staff photo by Ben Conant—

  • Goose played at the Cheshire Fairgrounds in Swanzey on Saturday night. Staff photo by Ben Conant—

  • Goose played at the Cheshire Fairgrounds in Swanzey on Saturday night. Staff photo by Ben Conant—

  • Goose played at the Cheshire Fairgrounds in Swanzey on Saturday night. Staff photo by Ben Conant—

  • Twiddle played at Drive-In Live last Thursday night. Photo by Eric Hemphill Photography—

  • One of the many catchy signs reminding people of the safety guidelines at Drive-In Live. Staff photo by Tim Goodwin

Monadnock Ledger-Transcript
Published: 10/7/2020 4:47:58 PM

I wasn’t really sure what to expect as I rode shotgun into the Cheshire Fairgrounds last Thursday for my first Drive-In Live experience.

Yes, I knew there would be the music of Twiddle filling the air starting at 7 p.m., along with a well put together light show and plenty of people dancing the night away – but beyond that, everything that came with a live show in the midst of the coronavirus pandemic, was a bit of an unknown.

The protocols and guidelines put forth by ME Productions seemed like it would be a safe night to enjoy my first live music show of 2020, but like most things this year, you don’t know what’s really going to happen until you’re put in the situation.

The signs for masks, social distancing and hand washing reinforced those publicized guidelines and put me at ease as we drove to the third row of section A and were parked within a stone’s throw of the stage. The setup is key for any event this year and seeing how it all worked first hand showed me why this series, put together as a last ditch effort to give music fans something to look forward to this summer, was both popular and working.

You are given a space for your car and 10 feet to the left to set up lawn chairs or blankets, roll out a cooler of your favorite drinks and snacks and most importantly, the space to practice social distancing that we all need to continue to follow.

With 45 minutes till the music began, I started to observe what was happening around me – the colorful signage and catchy slogans with safety in mind, people wearing masks everywhere I looked, even in their allotted spaces, and the stage setup that would soon provide an opportunity to feel like things were normal for a couple hours.

I’ve seen Twiddle once before – when they performed back-to-back night at the Colonial in Keene a couple years ago. A lot of my friends are big followers, so I’ve had other chances to see them, but for one reason or not, I’d never made it to another show. I like live music, but I don’t seem to see as much of it in recent years (a few shows a year) than I used to (a few more than a few shows).

And that’s probably why this night at Drive-In Live had been circled on the calendar for a while. It was supposed to be on Sept. 10, but one of the few chances of inclement weather over the last few months caused it to be postponed to the first of October. (Just as an aside, one of the others was when I went camping for the one time all year.)

There’s a difference in having the opportunity and choosing not to do something, than not having the option as was the case for a good while. I missed going to a concert (had Ryan Montbleau at the Peterborough Town House circled on the calendar for a while too when it was supposed to happen in April and then June before being moved to February 2021).

This more than quenched my thirst, but after a three hour show that had me swaying back and forth all night, I definitely looked up the schedule for the rest of the year to see if I could make my way back one more time.

And that’s why Mike Chadinha of ME Productions wanted to put something like this together. He knew there were people out there who would show up – likely week after week – for a live show. There are just people out there who need music and count Chadinha among them.

So after seeing other drive in music venues popping up around the country and world, it was almost crazy enough to try. He thought maybe 75 or 100 cars; then it turned out that the Cheshire Fairgrounds was available and could fit 450 cars.

“That changes the scope of what you can do,” Chadinha said. “But it makes it riskier. There were so many variables as we all know going into it.”

Chadinha said the first couple weeks weren’t that successful attributing that to what he described as a shotgun start.

“But then I could see it building, I could feel the buzz growing,” he said

And the reason that it’s been able to continue is because safety has been the top priority.

“Without that it can all go away. To be able to have live music, this is just how we have to do it,” Chadinha said. “It’s not perfect, but I think it’s the best we can do right now.”

That’s something to be appreciated. Like Chadinha said, there’s a lot of people in the music industry who haven’t worked in more than six months. If 2020 has taught us anything, it’s about being flexible and adapting. Drive-In Live is a perfect example of that.

The original plan was to have shows through Oct. 10, but the success made extending the series a no brainer. Drive-In Live just announced its finale show “Halloween at The Drive-In,” on Saturday, Oct. 31 with Pink Talking Fish, Mihali (of Twiddle), and Neighbor. Costumes are strongly encouraged. Tickets went on sale on Wednesday.

The rest of October is packed with performances including Badfish this Friday, Smith & Myers (of Shinedown) on Thursday, Oct. 15, Moe., who will be continuing the celebration of their 30th anniversary year on Thursday, Oct. 22, and Dirty Heads on Friday, Oct. 23. Tickets for all October performances are on sale now.

As for the future of Drive-In Live? It’s safe to say it will continue in some fashion.

“I think this could be this whole new concert model birthed out of the coronavirus pandemic,” Chadinha said.

If you haven’t been, it’s worth getting a few friends together for a safe night of live music.

“Because once this series is over, I don’t know what’s going to happen for live entertainment,” Chadinha said. A stark reminder of the world we currently live in.


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